Twenty-one years have elapsed after signing of the Chattogram Hill Tracts Peace Accord between the then Awami League government and the Parbattya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) on December 2, 1997.
The Accord was signed aiming to resolve the crisis in the CHT through political and peaceful means.The AL government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shown utmost sincerity for its implementation. According to sources at the Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs, 48 out of 72 sections of the Accord were fully implemented while 15 sections partially implemented and nine sections under implementation process.
However, the PCJSS claimed that only 25 sections of the Accord were implemented while two-third sections, including its core issues, remained unaddressed.
Because of strong political will of the then Sheikh Hasina-led government, the historic CHT Peace Accord was signed 21 years ago.
December 2, 1997, remains forever as a red letter day in the history of Bangladesh.
As per the Accord, the hill terrorists are pledge-bound to surrender their weapons abandoning the path of terrorism, but in reality the CHT scenario is different.Instead of cooperating with the government for implementing the peace accord, four regional tribal parties such as PCJSS, PCJSS (reformist), United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and UPDF (reformist) are engaged in doing criminal activities to make the CHT unstable.
Twenty-one years after the signing of the Accord, they still maintain armed groups that are engaged in crimes like extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder.
The extremist groups are in possession of sophisticated arms and ammunition with which they collect illegal tolls for doing anti-state subversive activities.
While visiting some areas in Bandarban, locals informed this correspondent that there are many activists in the regional parties who are in possession of sophisticated arms by which they commit various crimes in their respective areas by establishing their supremacy.
They informed that in name of establishing ‘indigenous identity’ of hill people, a section of leaders of the four parties collect huge amount of money as illegal tolls from local people.
While talking to them this correspondent came to know that local people do not want feud, bloodshed and criminal activities, but they want development, peace and stability in hills. Through this correspondent they urged the government to do the needful for the development of the CHT by undertaking various projects. They are of the opinion for nabbing criminals after identifying them for the sake of peaceful hill people.
On Thursday, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma, president of PCJSS, said that two-third sections of the Accord are yet to be implemented.
He said that instead of implementing the Accord, the government appears to be implementing programmes that go against its goals.
He blamed the government for spreading propaganda at home and abroad that 48 out of 72 sections of the Accord were implemented and the rest others would be implemented before end of its term. “Actually, only 25 sections of the Accord have been implemented while two-third sections, including its core issues, have still not been addressed,” he said.
The PCJSS president also said that his organisation had submitted a report narrating the situation in the CHT to the prime minister in April 2015, ‘but to no avail.’
Nurul Amin, secretary of the Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs, said, “We have taken up many development projects in the CHT to improve the standard of living of local people.”
He also said, “The incumbent government has been working sincerely for speedy implementation of the sections of the Accord that remain unimplemented.”
“We are trying to fully implement the peace treaty. So far 48 out of 72 sections of the treaty have been implemented while its 15 sections partly implemented and the remaining nine are under implementation process,” he said.
He said that the regional tribal organisations are involved in fighting with each others.
“All must have to work in a coordinated manner for implementation of the Accord,” he said, adding that so far the authorities concerned have withdrawn 240 army camps from the CHT.
He revealed that before the country’s independence there were only 48 kilometres of roads, but after the independence the government had constructed 1,659 kilometres of roads, numerous bridges and culverts in the CHT.
“Now you may go to anywhere in the CHT easily following construction of a large number of roads, bridges and culverts,” he added.
Contacted, the spokesman of the UPDF, Niran Chakma, said that they are not in possession of arms, but the law enforcement agencies always blame them that they possess arms.
“Temporary military camps increased instead of their withdrawal and the military men always harass the hill people,” he said.
The UPDF leader also blamed the law enforcement agencies for deteriorating the law and order in the CHT.
He said that the army is creating separate UPDF groups to commit crimes in the hills. “Really, we are frustrated as the CHT Peace Accord is yet to be fully implemented. It was an incomplete agreement and that’s why it is really not possible to implement it properly,” he added.
People of the hill districts said that previously there had been no university, no medical college in the CHT, but now they got one university and one medical college. Earlier, there were 11 high schools and colleges, but at present the number stands at 479.
Sources said that primary schools are now located in almost every locality. The literacy increased from two percent to 44.66 percent.
The national literacy rate is 59.82 percent, but Chakma population has 73 percent literacy rate. The literacy rate of Bengalees living in the CHT is 23 percent.
Concerned sources said that in the CHT the technical training centres rose from one to three while the number of hospitals increased from three to 25.
Now, there are five stadiums in the CHT where there was no playground earlier. Factories, small cottage industries too increased from 193 to 1,382.
Sources said that the government provides five percent reserved quota for jobs and education for hill people while the government has kept them tax-free. All these were done to improve the socio-economic condition and living standard of hill people.
Taking advantage of the benefits extended by the government, the CHT people advanced in education and jobs thereby improving their living conditions. The situation will improve day by day.
Now, the CHT does not lag behind than other regions of Bangladesh.
Chattogram Hill Tracts is an extensively hilly area comprising an area of 5,093 square miles.
According to the census of 2011, only 15,98,221 (approximately one percent of the total population of Bangladesh) people live in the CHT, only 10 percent of the total land of Bangladesh (5,093 square miles).
Of the population, 47 percent are Bangalees, 26 percent Chakmas, 12 percent Marmas and the rest 15 percent consists of 10 small groups.
The CHT region is surrounded by international borders of Myanmar on its southeastern side part and India on its northern side. The region is populated by Jumma people and people of other tribes such as Chakma, Marma, Garo, Mizo and Tripura.